New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg explaining his intention to outlaw sodas larger than 16 ounces in restaurants, sports venues, and street carts:
Everybody’s wringing their hands saying we’ve got to do something about [obesity]. Well, here is a concrete thing…. We’re not taking away anybody’s right to do things. We’re simply forcing you to understand that you have to make the conscious decision to go from one cup to another cup.
“Forcing” is the right word. The mayor’s policy would forbid eateries (but not stores)—under penalty of law—from serving regular (non-diet) sodas in cups larger than 16 ounces as a way to combat obesity. That does take away our rights. Leaving aside whether this would really address obesity, the mayor forgets something we all should have learned as children: The end doesn’t justify the means. The exchange of money for a supersized soda is a peaceful voluntary transaction, and hence no business of the government’s. It doesn’t matter that the mayor good intentions. They cannot justify the means: the use of physical force to prevent individuals from engaging in free exchange. The essence of a free society is that people may do, in the words of FEE’s founder Leonard E. Read, “anything that’s peaceful.” The mayor’s policy violates that standard miserably.